About the Society

The American Society for Psychical Research is the oldest psychical research organization in the United States. For more than a century, it's mission has been to explore extraordinary or as yet unexplained phenomena that have been called psychic or paranormal, and their implications for our understanding of consciousness, the universe and the nature of existence. How is mind related to matter, energy, space and time? In what unexplained ways do we interconnect with the universe and each other? The ASPR addresses these profoundly important and far-reaching questions with scientific research and related educational activities including lectures, conferences and other information services.

The ASPR was founded in 1885 by a distinguished group of scholars and scientists who shared the courage and vision to explore the uncharted realms of human consciousness, among them renowned Harvard psychologist and Professor of Philosophy, William James. Many of the early participants were pioneers in psychology, psychiatry, physics and astronomy. Freud and Jung were honorary members. Luminaries from a wide range of disciplines have been drawn to the Society throughout its history, including Chester Carlson, the inventor of Xerox; quantum physicist, David Bohm; psychologist Gardner Murphy; and dream researcher Montague Ullman, M.D. From its inception, the Society has investigated the prevalence and meaning of extraordinary human experience from creativity, hypnosis, dreams and states of consciousness to telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokineses, healing, and the question of survival after death. These topics of study continue to be vitally relevant today.

In the ASPR laboratory, Ganzfeld research has examined ESP functioning in an altered state of consciousness with a focus on discovering relevant variables that may affect success or failure. The ASPR continues to collect case reports of personal ESP experiences, including reports bearing on the survival hypothesis from a survey of near-death experiences, apparitions, awareness of death at a distance, and unusual experiences in the presence of the dying. Recent talks given at the Society have discussed precognition, and laboratory ESP with unknown targets. A talk discussed and contrasted hundreds of spontaneous 9/11 premonitions sent to the Society with observations of spontaneous ESP, including precognition, within the Dream Telepathy Group that Dr. Montague Ullman hosted for many years at the ASPR. A talk discussed how ESP can be detected in the stream of consciousness during the altered state of a Ganzfeld laboratory experiment with unknown targets, and that observing the ways ESP may manifest in both free-response experiments and in real life may reveal insights and surprises and suggest new questions.

The ASPR library and archives are a leading repository of significant aspects of American and scientific history - including the earliest history of psychology and psychiatry in the United States, early studies of multiple personality, the evolution of mind-body medicine, Eastern and Western religious philosophy, the mental healers movement and American visionary traditions. They include rare manuscripts that date back to the 1600's, case reports, correspondence (William James, Henry James, W. B. Yeats, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini and Upton Sinclair, to name a few), thousands of periodicals, books and pamphlets - the majority out of print and extremely rare. In addition to their scientific value, the ASPR archives contain rare fine art, including “spirit” drawings and photographs and a significant collection of Shaker manuscripts relating to their visionary experiences. The archives also include a continuously growing collection of audio and videotape interviews and lectures by leading contemporary scientists. The library is constantly growing as new collections are added. The archives are a priceless, irreplaceable treasure that must continue to be preserved and protected for future generations.

The ASPR has participated in groundbreaking exhibits of rare photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie in Paris. It also participated in exhibits at the Hammer Gallery in Los Angeles, the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, and at the Drawing Center in New York City. The ASPR is developing a special exhibit from its archives that was initially funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

With sufficient support, the ASPR will protect and preserve its existing historical legacy. The Society will also continue to stimulate modern thinkers drawn from a variety of mainstream disciplines, including physics, psychology, biology, medicine, religion and philosophy. The ASPR will continue its tradition of top-level, interdisciplinary scientific conferences with the best minds in their fields. It will facilitate conversations among leading scientists, conversations about the nature of reality that incorporate a century of evidence from psychical research and modern research from mainstream science - evidence that suggests an interdependence and connectedness of conscious beings and the physical world.

The ASPR is a primary contemporary force for advancing our understanding of the far reaching scientific and spiritual questions raised by the mysteries of consciousness. The ASPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization that has served public and professional audiences for more than a century.